May 10, 2022

“How oft have I with public voice run on …?”: Elizabeth Cary, Aemilia Lanyer, and the Christian Literary Imagination

Event Series: The Christian Literary Imagination

Statue of Elizabeth Cary

Recent creative responses to Aemilia Lanyer’s poems in Salve Rex Judaeorum (1611) and Elizabeth Cary’s play The Tragedy of Mariam, Fair Queen of Jewry (1613) suggest that while in the early modern period the gender of these authors was the major issue in relation to them claiming a public voice, today it is the Christian imagination—literary and theatrical—of Lanyer and Cary respectively that provides the major challenge. Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s play Emilia (2018) and Cutpurse Theatre’s recent production of Mariam demonstrate very different ways of navigating, and responding to, the public voice and Christian imagination of these two groundbreaking women. Michael Scott, director of the Future of the Humanities Project, provided opening and closing remarks, and Rev. Joseph Simmons, S.J., moderated a Q&A session following the presentation.

This event was sponsored by the Future of the Humanities Project; the Georgetown Humanities Initiative; the Georgetown Master’s Program in the Engaged and Public HumanitiesCampion Hall, Oxford; and the Las Casas Institute (Blackfriars Hall, Oxford). It is part of a two-year-long series on the Christian Literary Imagination.


Elizabeth Schafer is a professor of drama and theatre studies at Royal Holloway, University of London. She has published performance histories of The Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night; a monograph on women theatre directors, MsDirecting Shakespeare; and a biography of Lilian Baylis, who ran the Old Vic and Sadler’s Wells theatres. Her Theatre & Christianity (2019) offers a radical new reading of Isabella in Measure for Measure.

Rev. Joseph Simmons, S.J., (moderator) is an American Catholic priest currently writing his doctoral thesis at Campion Hall, Oxford, under the supervision of Professor Graham Ward. He is exploring the Christian imagination and the fertile place where belief and unbelief touch in the fiction of Virginia Woolf and Marilynne Robinson. Simmons previously studied theology at Boston College and the Harvard Divinity School. His Licentiate in Sacred Theology thesis, “Via Literaria: Marilynne Robinson's Theology Through a Literary Imagination,” explored the convergence of literary and Christian imaginations.